State Senator Mattie Hunter Promotes Chicago School’s “Cooking Up Change” Healthier School Lunch

January 28, 2010 | Written By:

Today we have a guest post from Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter, who visited Tilden High School yesterday to congratulate the talented student chefs and speak up for healthy school food. This entry is cross-posted at the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus blog.   

Sen. Hunter with the Tilden culinary team

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend Tilden High School for a special event promoting healthier school lunch options. Tilden High School’s student chefs worked with the not-for-profit organization Healthy Schools Campaign to create a healthy lunch that exceeds United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition standards.

Tilden High School won first place in the annual Cooking Up Change contest hosted each fall by the Healthy Schools Campaign. The contest challenged students to create a healthy and tasty school meal with a budget of one dollar per meal for food costs. Chicago Public Schools typically spends around that much for their food.

I was amazed by the lunch the students were able to create with such a tight budget. We dined on vegetable and chicken jambalaya with a side salad and jalapeño corn bread. It was the perfect combination of healthy food options that our kids need to be served in our local schools. This same winning lunch prepared by Tilden High School students will be shared with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. this spring. The lunch is intended to encourage members of Congress to increase school funding for healthier lunch options. Chicago Public Schools receives only $2.68 per lunch to cover food, labor, facilities and administrative costs for each meal served. There is no way a school can prepare a healthy lunch for that amount.

In honor of “Family Lifestyle Month,” I want to stress the need to increase school funding in order to provide healthier school lunches. Childhood obesity over the years has become an increasingly alarming health care risk that this country cannot afford. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million nationwide) between the ages of 6-19 are overweight or obese. This number has tripled since the 1980s.

I believe, as a community, it is our responsibility to protect our children from this growing problem by setting good examples of healthy nutrition and ensuring our schools have the tools they need to help us reach this goal.

Last year the General Assembly passed a measure that will require public schools to ensure that 20 percent of their lunches include fresh fruits and vegetables from local Illinois farms by 2020.

In addition, we can look to our first family as role models. The Obama Family planted an organic farm on the south lawn of the White House and worked hard to bring an urban farmer’s market to downtown D.C. They too recognize the importance of leading by example.

And this is an exciting year for health advocates with reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act coming up this spring. This bill could allocate additional funds for schools to increase quality and access for healthy food. I encourage you to reach out to your representatives and our US senators and urge them to support a robust reauthorization. You can visit the Healthy Schools Campaign’s website to take action at

It is vital that we make preventive health care like exercising and proper nutrition a priority in our communities to ensure a healthier lifestyle for future generations. I want to commend the Healthy Schools Campaign for partnering with the Chicago Public Schools and giving students the opportunity to share their creative culinary skills while promoting the importance of healthier school lunches in our public schools.

Many thanks to Sen. Hunter for this post and for her support of healthy school food!

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